One of the world's pioneer steamship lines, the General Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1824 with the intention of trading throughout the world. In the event it limited its operations to the Thames estuary, the east coast run to Scotland and most of the Northwest European ports between Hamburg and Brest, but this curtailment did nothing to impede the Company's success. It prospered rapidly and thanks to sound finances and good management, had already acquired a sizeable fleet of mostly new steamers by 1835 when the order for Britannia was placed. Built on the Thames at Poplar and launched on 9 July 1835, she was registered at 321 tons gross (219 net) and measured 136½ feet in length with a 24¼ foot beam. A wooden-hulled paddler fitted with Boulton & Watt 160 n.h.p. engines, Britannia initially ran from London to Edinburgh but was soon transferred to the Rotterdam service and shortly thereafter ran to the northern French ports. In 1843, she was sold to the French-owned Havre Steamship Company which, having renamed her Sphinx operated her on their regular Havre to London service until she was withdrawn and scrapped in 1847.